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Goodbye, Coffee

December 5, 2011

Some people (scientists, I believe) say that your body regenerates every seven years. That just happened to me, like, in November. I am an entirely new human being.

How do I know this? Well, I’ve made a very unsettling discovery in the past few weeks: Coffee makes me nuts.

It didn’t used to.

It all started when I was driving to work one morning (so much easier than spending all morning with two fighting toddlers, let me tell you) and I was listening to a podcast with the maker of the new HBO show, Enlightened. He was talking about his nervous breakdown that led to him creating a series about the importance of mindfulness. I was super interested in this idea until I noticed that as he talked, I was getting all jumpy. He was talking fast, too fast. He was making me really nervous, in fact. I had to turn off the podcast and never listen to him again.

Life went on as usual, kind of.

Then there was another morning when I was driving to work (so much easier than spending all morning with two fighting toddlers, let me tell you) and I was listening to a podcast with Jill Lepore, writer of a recent article in the New Yorker about the history of the birth control movement. I was super interested, because I think birth control is the best invention since the wheel. As she talked, though, I was getting all jumpy. She couldn’t seem to catch her breath, nor could I. Her voice was making me really nervous, in fact. I had to turn off the podcast and never listen to her again.

Was I allergic to podcasts?


Was I a complete misanthrope?


Was I guzzling coffee on my 40 minute drive?

Ding, ding! Yes. Therein lay the problem.

But coffee couldn’t really be bad for me. Doesn’t it lower women’s risk of depression? Isn’t it the most soothing of warm drinks, evident by the tall, warm paper cups everyone’s always carrying around with them? It’s pure medicine. It has to be. Right?

There was a time in my life—a long time, in fact—that I didn’t drink coffee. It tasted rather disgusting. Yet in college, I was slowly drawn in by the coffee mystique. A friend of mine worshipped at the altar of Folgers. Her hands shook when I talked to her. She was an excellent comic-book-maker and claimed that all professors called her “brilliant.” (It was rather strange, how they all used that particular word.)

Coffee had such a dazzling aura. There were so many romantic songs about it, so many sitcoms where people held it on the way to complete very important business. How else was I to know I was an adult, an independent thinker, if I wasn’t holding chocolate brown liquid in a thick mug between my hands in some chic cafe, talking about the most important things in the world, like everyone else? How could I ever consider myself a writer if I didn’t stay up all night with a cigarette in one hand, a pot of coffee in the other, my hair growing frizzier as I typed on a long sheet of paper about a wicked cross country journey that never happened?

When I got my first job, I decided that a cup of French Vanilla roast on my way in to school was the perfect preparation (read: treat) for a long day’s work ahead of me. It helped that it was sweet. I grew more discriminating in my coffee taste, and by the time I had kids, I went to bed anticipating the magic of those first sips in the morning. (I couldn’t look forward to sleep, for godsakes.) Drinking coffee in the morning made me a part of the world, a member of a diverse swath of human beings who must drink or suffer severe headaches by mid-afternoon. Ours was a very intimate connection.

By some strange synchronicity of the cosmos, my third coffee maker in four years broke at the same time I started to understand why some people recoil in fear when they hear the word “caffeine” in the same way others react to the image of dirty syringes lying next to a gutter. I remembered how my mother drank coffee daily until one day, she put the coffee maker away for good. At some point in the last year, I became one of those women who gasps and tenses her shoulders when her husband orders a regular coffee after dinner at a restaurant. “Are you sure?” I ask, my eyes like craters. “Not decaf?”

I am a girl who likes to fit in, but am now suddenly on the fringe.

While still in love with the coffee mystique, I recognize that my body gets quite pissed off every time I drink more than a third of a cup. My sinuses get all puffy and my heart gets all nasty, and all the nerves in my arms and legs seem like they want to run right out the door.

So I’ve been doing a very British thing. I’m drinking English Breakfast tea with—gulp—milk. I know. I know.

It actually tastes quite good with a homemade scone. (Though I rarely make any of those.)

Goodbye, Coffee. We were good while we lasted.

(Cue the violin.)

Perhaps we’ll meet again one day for longer than a two-minute tryst.

First wedding anniversary

Saturday morning circa Old Days.

French visage in French hotel. C'est magnifique!

(And all of those pictures were before children! Sheesh.)

Top image: “Coffee” by Maxime via Flickr using a Creative Commons license.




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